The Big Book of Monsters: The Creepiest Creatures from Classic Literature

Workman. Sept. 2019. 176p. bibliog. chron. further reading. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781523507115.
Gr 5 Up–Readers prepared for a big scare with a side order of literary history will love this collection of 25 monsters and villains ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh demigod Humbaba to the vampires, werewolves, and golems of gothic literature. Presented alphabetically by the monster’s name, each chapter tells the tale of a famous literary fright complete with stats such as their “most dastardly deed” and “fear factor” rating of one to five spooky skulls. A “Beyond the Book” section following each monster’s story allows the author to delve briefly into topics like science fiction traditions, connecting myth and symbolism between cultures, the importance of representation in publishing folklore, and the origin of supervillains. Back matter provides a time line of the monsters presented, an abundance of reading lists (including all of the stories mentioned throughout the book), notes on translation from source texts, and even a list of 20 additional spine-tingling creatures and bad guys worth investigating. Sievert’s full-page illustrations bring each monster to life with shades of bloody reds and oozy greens.
VERDICT Johnson’s casual descriptions of horrifying tales will delight middle grade readers while he successfully lures them to grander-scheme ideas. A must-have for middle school libraries and those whose readers seek out the creepy and the scary.

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